Skip to main content

Full text of "The History Of Western Education"

See other formats


CHAPTER   VIII

THE BROADENING  OF HUMANISM

i. THE SECOND RENAISSANCE

IT is not easy to recognize the spiritual kinship of the Renaissance
with the educational systems which developed out of it under the
influence of the Churches, both in Catholic and in Protestant
lands. The basis of instruction was the classical writings of the
ancient world, which had had a glorious resurrection in the revival
of learning, and the language supposed to be used by both teachers
and pupils was the Ciceronian Latin which had displaced the
uncouth but practically effective Latin of the Middle Ages. But
the quickening impulses which inspired scholars in the heyday of
the movement—the desire for a larger and fuller life, the joy in
beauty of style and thought, the craving for an illimitable range of
knowledge—had largely disappeared from the schools. Just as
Protestantism had arisen out of the revolt of the individual soul
against the tyranny of outgrown ritual and doctrine, and within a
brief century had created new organizations and creeds which
imposed restrictions as severe as the old, so education, after being
rejuvenated by contact with the noble works of Greece and Rome,
began with equal dispatch to exalt the letter over the spirit and to
magnify verbal study at the expense of the vital content of litera-
ture. The process of decadence was, indeed, arrested for a time by
the conjunction of humanism and religion in a " lettered piety J>;
but only for a time. Once the fervour created by the movements
of reformation and counter-reformation had waned, the literary
education of the schools soon lost the vitality it had derived from
its association with religion, and the descent into formalism became
headlong.

But though the attempt to create educational institutions
embodying the principles of the Renaissance had in large measure
failed, the leaven of the modern spirit was all the time at work in
the minds of men, making the best of them discontented with
what had been accomplished, and urging them on to a more
adequate expression of their ideals in a new renaissance. So far

309